Hip-hop whiz kid Lupe Fiasco weighs
By Matthew Lurie
It was only a year ago this fall that Lupe Fiasco released his debut album, Food & Liquor, to critical hosannas. Since then, the West Side–born Muslim rapper has toured the world, played the big kids’ stage at Lollapalooza and made a generation of disaffected hipsters believe they had an MC they could look up to. A serial woman-respecting, nonalcoholic, antiswearing rhyming genius and sex symbol (precisely because he doesn’t want to be one), Lupe makes it hip to be square.
We spoke with Lupe from the office of his current label, Atlantic Records, where the 25-year-old owner of the budding 1st & 15th record label was preparing his sophomore album, The Cool, for its December 4 release.
Before Food & Liquor came out, you said you hoped it would make kids think about their values. Does having women throw themselves at you affect your own?
[Laughing] Naw, naw, not at all. That really isn’t a factor for me because I don’t really go out. I take myself out of those situations so I’m not even there for it to be offered to me. I have somewhat of a strong faith in myself, I guess, to say no. And when I say no, I mean no.
You have a new group with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams called Child Rebel Soldiers. Both are renowned for their egos. How do you avoid getting trampled?
Pharrell doesn’t really come across like that to me. People place upon him the things that he’s famous for, his high level of fashion and everything he does. I think ’Ye is the one who’s more over-the-top, more with a point to prove. I don’t think P or I have one. That’s the separation. Kanye has been through a lot of turmoil as far as trying to make it with a lot of people pushing him back. I didn’t really have that. I always had Jay-Z in my corner, and those people who didn’t believe, it was only because they didn’t know. It wasn’t like someone ever said, “Yo, I think you just should keep [producing] because you suck at [rapping].” So it’s a balance. We’ve got the mouthpiece and then the humble dudes in the back.
Politically speaking, whom would you call the hip-hop candidate?
I think there’s a lot of the hip-hop crowd behind Barack Obama because he’s a black man. Honestly, I’m rooting for Hillary because race is only going to go so far. All the presidents are men at the end of the day. We’ve never had a woman in charge, and I think that would be so ill for society as a whole, even as a four-year experiment. Just to see a woman in office and how the world reacts to that.
So the difference between a woman and man in office is greater than that between a white and black man?
Oh, yeah. I think the temperament is much, much different. I just think we’ve had the male perspective for so long, and I don’t think the black male perspective is going to be that much different. He’s not really saying anything that’s revolutionary because he can’t. He still has to be president for all of those people in small towns that are 100 percent white, who pay their taxes and are actually the thermometer for America’s economy. That very large Christian part of the country is massive and way bigger than just pockets of black people in this city here or that city there. But I just think, for a nice little refreshing kind of change, let’s get a female in office, you know.
Did you encounter that Christian nation while touring during the past year?
Not really. For me, I never wore my religion on my sleeve, you know what I’m saying? I never put myself out there as Lupe Fiasco, he’s Muslim, he’s from Chicago, he likes to ride a skateboard. It was just another piece of describing myself. But I do understand that America is a predominantly Christian country. A lot of morals and values are based in Christianity as opposed to Buddhism, which it’s not, or Judaism, which it’s not, or Islam, which it’s definitely not. So I’m not going to lie to myself and just be like, well you know, everybody’s equal. Because we’re not.
You sound like a reader.
I used to be, but now my attention span is not quite as focused. I just downloaded 1984 for my iPod, but I’ve read that before. It just hearkens back to the “romance” of my high-school days. I really liked the space I was in when I was reading it. And it’s a really dope book.